Altdahn Castle Group


The Altdahn castle group lies east of the town of Dahn. The threefold castle Altdahn, Grafendahn and Tanstein is the largest castle complex in the Pfalz (Palatinate). They are also named the "Dahner locks". The ruins of the three castles rise on five huge sandstone rocks standing next to one another on a high hill.

The origin of castle Tanstein, which is built on the two western castle rocks, is unclear yet today. Both castle rocks are separated totally from one another, but in prior times there were wooden bridges between them. The most current research concludes that it is probable castle Tanstein already existed in the early Middle Ages as a refuge castle long before the others of the group were built. When Altdahn was constructed, Tanstein was designed into it's plan as an outflow. Later, Castle Altdahn was expanded by the Dahner knights after their loss of Castle Grafendahn. Because of this development Tanstein had the status to likewise be recognized later as a Speyer fief.

 Altdahn Castle was built around 1100 on the two eastern castle rocks. Recent research reveals that the castle Tanstein was built on a still substantially older castle foundation from before the early Middle Ages. On the oldest known documents from those years, an Anshelmus de Tannicka is mentioned. in 1127. At this time the castle was an empire fief.

 Several documents from the time of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, dated to 1189, prove Heinrich von Tanne (Dahn) to be the first recorded minister connected with Altdahn. At the beginning of the 13th century, he and his family had quite close relations to the church. Several of their knights gained high and highest church offices. In the year 1236 the castle ownership is passed to the Bishopry von Speyer, who lent it to the resident von Dahns, headed by Konrad Mursel, a trusted friend of Emperor Friedrichs II. He had thus been selected to rule it by the Emperor in1233, as well as by the bishop von Speyer. It cannot be said today with any certainty how Konrad  managed to influence things so that the valuable and strategic Dahner fief, which at that time belonged to the territory of the prince/bishops of Speyer, was handed over totally to his family. The fact is that the assumption of the fief meant large social ascent for the family von Dahn, which brought in influential offices for its members. He died on Christmas eve of the year 1236 and was succeeded by his brother Friedrich von Dahn.


 In 1240, a side line of the parent ruling family split off and established Castle Neudahn, which lies to the northwest. Konrad Mursel von Dahn, a grandson of the Speyer fief holder Friedrich von Dahn, built Castle Grafendahn on the middle one of the five castle rocks around 1267 in result of these family disputes. Although it is conveniently close to the other Dahner castles, it has a completely independent history. From the beginning, Altdahn castle group was a shared out estate. In 1287, due to the lack of male heirs from the Neudahner and Grafendahner families, ownership of the castle complex was passed out to a union of families and in 1288 has five further owners besides Konrad; the von Windsteins, von Eichens, von Landsbergs, von Sponheims and Heinrich the Summerer. Castle Grafendahn was excluded from this passing. Since Konrad was without a male heir, the Speyer cathedral gave its permission allowing the transfer of his portion of the castle to his daughters. At Konrad's death his Altdahn castle group portion passed to his son-in-law William von Windstein. The Bishop of Speyer had declared Grafendahn to be for the daughters of the deceased owner Konrad von Dahn (Mursel). By 1288 marriage partnerships were well established between the Dahn ministry and neighboring nobles through them.

 In 1328, William von Windstein shared Grafendahn out with Count Johann II of Sponheim in common ownership. In 1339 his portion to the castle was sold to Johann, who is named opening share owner, and for 11 years acquired the castle and one quarter of all goods of the dominions belonging to the ruling von Dahns. In addition he acquired a quarter of the village of Dahn and the surrounding lands. , thus it did not fall entirely out of the Dahner Knights sphere of interest. From this time on the castle retained the independent name of Grafendahn (Count final ancestor).
The castle was lost completely to the Dahner knight families when in 1345 count Walram von Sponheim bought the remaining portions and took exclusive possession of the castle and estate.

Altdahn Castle Group part II